Named after the author who wrote a true masterpiece about a famous little yet wise prince, we met a distinguished gentleman on the first of September, day 157 of our journey.
There he entered the Pakistani consulate in Zahedan: slim built, wild hair, unshaven beard for a month or so, oversized blue shirt, eyes shooting everywhere, brimming countenance, a quick pace, full of energy – uttering a fast flowing stream of French words when he saw Chris Cross. His name: Antoine.
The six of us (Chris Chross with his Burrito, Antoine with his La Baroudeuse and Guido and I), we would be traveling the whole of Pakistan together for the next thirty days. We saw the inside of at least fifty different police cars, stayed and slept in police stations next to jailed Taliban warriors, crawled over the Babusar pass, flew down the Karakoram Highway, suffered from food poisoning and each one of us experienced a puncture. It was quite the ride, I can safely say.
Since we had a few ‘when-push-comes-to-shove-situations’, we can share some learned lessons from this optimistic young man who seems truly in his element when he’s on the road or in the mountains.
- The creative and pragmatic approach he revealed in making sure Burrito, La Baroudeuse and I were safely and without any damage transported through Baluchistan in the back and on the roofs of all those police cars opened the eyes of my rider.
- Furthermore, Antoine was persistent in not succumbing to the sometimes frantic and hurried behavior of the police officers who only seem to care about the well-being of our riders and not always that much about the well-being of us, the bicycles. Only when we were properly placed and fastened in the vehicles would we leave.
- As a native of the region of Grenoble you tend to have higher expectations of someone regarding mountains and the distinguished gentleman did not disappoint: the knowledge about the peaks, the weather conditions, the vegetation growing on the slopes and mountaineering in general was quite informative.
- The lines he and La Baroudeuse chose in the serpentines and tight corners when descending from Babusar showed he was neither stupid nor afraid.
- He and his bicycle were a welcome addition to what I had been thinking was already a fine fellowship: when Chris Cross and Guido snapped on the streets of Quetta because we were getting nowhere, he remained calm while in other situations where Chris Cross or Guido remained cool his pathos put on the necessary pressure to continue our journey.
- Entering a small Pakistani village, Antoine did a ‘bunny hop’: he jumped with La Baroudeuse and all his luggage over a speed breaker. It impressed some people that were passing by. Now, Guido tries to do the same with me using the excuse that more people will jump on bicycles when they see how cool it is. I don’t believe him: he is just trying to show off.